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Khors - "The Flame of Eternity's Decline/Cold" (2-CD Set)

Khors - "The Flame of Eternity's Decline/Cold" 2-CD Set cover image

"The Flame of Eternity's Decline/Cold" track listing:

CD1: "The Flame of Eternity's Decline"
1. Wounds of the Past
2. Eyes of Eternal Loneliness
3. Throne of Antiquity
4. Trees Are Remembers
5. Breath
6. Moan of the Grief
7. Spirit of Fury
8. Flame of Eternity
9. Wounds of the Past (wood mix)
10. Spirit of Fury (moon mix)
11. Moan of the Grief (live)
12. Trees Are Remembers (demo)
13. Eyes of Eternal Loneliness (demo)
14. Throne of Antiquity (demo)
15. Flame of Eternity (demo)

CD 2: "Cold"
1. Cold
2. Ashes
3. Garnet
4. Misery
5. Conscious Burning
6. Whispers
7. In the Depths of Black Hills
8. The Abyss
9. Cold (art-rock version)
10. Ashes (live)
11. Garnet (Video)

Reviewed by on November 19, 2010

Hailing from the Ukraine, atmospheric pagan/black metal band Khors re-released its first two albums, 2005’s “The Flame of Eternity’s Decline” and 2006’s “Cold,” as a double album this year, complete with bonus demos, live tracks, and remixes. In all, there are 16 original tracks and ten bonuses, including one live video. The albums were originally released by Oriana Music, but this time around distribution is being handled by Paragon Records.

First up on “The Flame of Eternity’s Decline” is “Wounds of the Past,” a dark, menacing, mid-paced number with sustained open chords and mid range black metal vocals, courtesy of vocalist and guitarist Helg, that are decipherable and controlled. “Eyes of Eternal Loneliness” then comes in with a blast beat intro that gives way to competent double bass drum work and another mid-tempo groove, with keyboards dutifully following the chord progression. The work on the keys is not overly busy; it’s simply there to add another dimension of darkness. A very death metal solo, whammy dives and all, is the first indication of outside influences penetrating Khors’ sound.

The first red flag is raised on just the third track, “Throne of Antiquity,” wherein the intro sounds much the same as that on the album’s opening song. It almost sound like the same riff played backwards. Needless to say, it’s a bit early in the album to get derivative, but the song is skillful, with a folk metal solo that compliments the song’s overall vibe. By the time the CD’s fourth song, the grammatically incorrect “Trees are Remembers,” rolls around, Khors has settled into a signature sound, a comfort zone of mid-tempo double bass, the occasional blast, and frenetically strummed bar chords. It’s not technical by any means, but the focus is on the overall atmosphere. An instrumental interlude that borders on the cliché follows, and on its heels is the band’s second grammatically dubious title, “Moan of the Greif,” a methodically slow song, again with a very simple structure that is heavy on conveying raw emotion. Khors isn’t a band that tries to take 20 riffs and stuff them into a four riff song.

On “Spirit of Fury,” the snare on drummer Khaoth’s kit sounds a bit loose, but his fine double bass work again comes through. He’s not a flashy player, but then again neither Warth nor Helg on the guitars or Khorus on the bass could be described as such. With that being said, Khaoth does seem to fall back on the same pace of double bass drumming time and time again.

Four demos, two alternate mixes, and a live track follow the album’s originals. The drums on the alternate mixes of “Wounds of the Past” and “Spirit of Fury” have an annoying industrial quality, or lack thereof, and the demos seem to lack the punching power of the finished songs that would later appear on the album proper. The live version of “Moan of Grief” is of good quality sound wise, but it could very well have simply been recorded live in a sterile sound studio rather than at a club. In all, the bonus tracks don’t add anything buzz worthy for fans.

Moving on to disc two, simply titled, “Cold,” we begin to see Khors moving in a slightly different direction, with a more ethereal sound on the keys, layered vocals with more low end added to the mid range, and clean guitar passages contributing to a celestial, dark dreamscape with emotionally tinged solo work. From the opening track, “Ashes,” it’s clear that the solos have been given more room to run, alongside the spacey tone on the synth elements. “Garnet,” sounds almost like black ‘n’ roll, and Khors exhibits that simplicity for effect’s sake is the order of the day, with a lucid piano passage toward the end capturing the essence of the band’s focus on emotional impact. Truth be told, the solo wouldn’t sound out of place in an eighties hard rock ballad.

This formula persists through the heart of “Cold,” with songs such as “Misery” and Conscious Burning” following in a similar vein. Clean guitar passages over spacey effects, double bass drumming, and strummed black metal chords make for a densely layered sound that Khors finds itself exploring. At times, things do sound a bit stagnant. Just as an irregular noise can keep you awake, a constant, unaltered drone can lull you to sleep. But all things considered, credit is due to Khors for maintaining some semblance of change from one album to the next.

An instrumental interlude also makes an appearance, and comes off as slightly lazy and a touch pointless to list it as an extra song. Why not use it as an intro for another song? By the time the disc’s final two originals are reached, the listener can almost predict what the next song is going to sound like. It’s no surprise when a mid-paced song with strummed blackened chords and ethereal keys slows its tempo in the bridge, gives way to a ringing solo, and things are brought back up to speed again before the outro takes us to the conclusion. But the last song, “The Abyss,” shows that Khors do just enough in terms of variation to avoid being accused of being one trick tyrants. This is the band’s most haunting track, and it’s a good attempt at keeping the overall body of work from becoming stale, but it kills any momentum the work as a whole had with a slow, anticlimactic vibe that fails to live up to what preceded it. A nod to Cradle of Filth with the half-whispered vocals likely won’t do anything to endear the band to purists.

Though “Cold” has less bonus material than disc one, it brings something more interesting, with the alt-rock version of the title track offering an expansion on the elementary black ‘n’ roll sound featured on “Garnet.” An almost bluesy piano passage and guitar lead work takes Khors toward the sound trademarked by Finland’s Sentenced. Another live track, “Ashes,” again adequately captures the band in a live setting, but could just as easily be skipped over.

All in all, this reissue takes material that is good enough to stand on its own and doesn’t add much in the way of intriguing bonus material. But it was a good idea to take previously released material that might not have been easily obtainable and put it out in a double album format. It’s a good way to get acquainted with a capable black metal band - just don’t expect to be blown away by the unremarkable bonus material.

Highs: Solid material throughout with a high level of emotional resonance.

Lows: The featured bonus material can, save for the live video and the alt-rock version of "Cold," largely be skipped over.

Bottom line: A good excuse to expand your Eastern European black metal library.

Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls
3.5 out of 5 skulls

Rating Description
Rated 5 out of 5 skulls Perfection. (No discernable flaws; one of the reviewer's all-time favorites)
Rated 4.5 out of 5 skulls Near Perfection. (An instant classic with some minor imperfections)
Rated 4 out of 5 skulls Excellent. (An excellent effort worth picking up)
Rated 3.5 out of 5 skulls Good. (A good effort, worth checking out or picking up)
Rated 3 out of 5 skulls Decent. (A decent effort worth checking out if the style fits your tastes)
Rated 2.5 out of 5 skulls Average. (Nothing special; worth checking out if the style fits your taste)
Rated 2 out of 5 skulls Fair. (There is better metal out there)
< 2 skulls Pretty Bad. (Don't bother)